ALTERNATIVE CARE: Supreme Court Lets WA Law Stand
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a 1996 Washington state law requiring health insurers to cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture and massage therapy. Allowing the law to stand "without comment," the high court sided with a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued last summer that found the state law does not violate "federal statute barring states from interfering in benefits offered by employers." The appeals court noted that self-insured employers are exempt from the requirement, which "regulates insurers and [HMOs], not workplace benefits" as insurers had argued. Washington Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn said, "It's time to put this fight behind us and get on with the business of protecting consumers and their access to health care." The decision, she said, sets the stage for the state insurance department to hammer out compliance details with insurers. Noting that most insurers offer alternative care benefits, Senn explained that they are "not to the level the law envisioned" and are not uniform among plans. Teresa Moore, Premara Blue Cross spokesperson, called the law "confusing," noting that it prompted insurers to "go about offering the coverage in their own way" (Spencer, AP/Eugene Register-Guard, 2/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.